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Black Bostonia 



» BOSTON 200 NEIGHBORHOOD HISTORY SERIES 



esearcl 
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Henry Adams, the nineteenth cen- 
tury philosopher, said that the history 
of America is not the history of the 
few, but the history of the many. The 
people of Boston's neighborhoods have 
accepted the challenge of Adam's 
statement to produce "people's his- 
tories" of their own communities. 
Hundreds of Bostonians formed com- 
mittees in each of fifteen neighborhood; 
of the city, volunteering their time over 
the past year and a half to research 
in libraries, search for photographs, 
produce questionnaires, transcribe 
tapes, assist in writing and editing, anc 
most important, act as interviewers 
and subjects of "oral history" research. 
These booklets are not traditional 
textbook histories, and we have not at- 
tempted to cull a statistical sample. 
We have simply talked with our 
neighbors, people who remember, 
sometimes with fondness, sometimes 
with regret, but always with wisdom. 
For each of us has his or her own 
story to tell, and these stories are vital 
to the development of our neighbor- 
hoods and our city. 

© 1976, The Boston 200 Corporation 
Boston 200 is the city's official program 
to observe the Bicentennial of the 
American Revolution from April igy^ 
through December 1976. 

Kevin H. White, Mayor 
Katharine D. Kane, 

President, The Boston 200 Corporation 
I Beacon Street 
Boston, Massachusetts 02108 
617-338-1775 



BLACK BOS TON I A 



I saw Jesus down in Dixie 
Beaten hy the hit Klux Klan 
Beaten for the simple reason that 
He dared to he a man. 

James William Henderson 

T 

H E S E words were written, not al^out some swamp- 
land in tlie Soutli by a fearful, desperate Negro seeking 
refuge from a I'obed potential lynch mob, but about 
Boston, the "Ch'adlc of Liberty," where nmaway 
blacks found refuge from thcii' slave masters; where an- 
gry, fearless abolitionists, white and black, preached 
against the evils of hiunan bondage; where William 
Monroe Trotter, Malcolm X, Da\ id Walker, Reverend 
Ike and Maitin Luther King Jr. wrote and rearranged 
history. 

James William Henderson, a dapper man of 
80 plus years, wrote these words more than a genera- 
tion ago. He still casts an admiring eye toward pretty 
girls, still reads and writes poetry, still acts, still attacks 
life with a zest — a little more slowly, more deliberately, 
but not less enthusiastically. 



Although Mr. Henderson reads his angry poetry in 
public appearances, he also revels in his love of Boston, 
in his life in this city, in his cultural achievements here, 
in his civil rights experiences with Monroe Trotter, in 
the achievements of his daughter, in the excitement of 
his sweethearts. Mr. Henderson is not afraid of the 
streets of Boston. 

To black Bostonians, the Hub remains the "CIradle 
of Liberty" in spite of its many contradictions. Black 
people should know. Unlike many ethnic, cultural and 
racial groups that have migrated to this city, l:)lack 
people have lived in every community. They have 
moved from the North End to Beacon Hill to the West 
End to the South End to Roxbury and now beyond, 
fanning out into every area of the city. 

Black people came to settle in Boston through 
many avenues — as slaves and fugitive slaves, sailors, in- 
dentured servants, ambitious freemen. 

And black people are not johnnies-come-lately. 
The first African arrived in Boston in 1683. Black peo- 
ple have lived in this city ever since. Only 766 blacks, 
4 percent of the population, were counted in Boston in 
the first United States census in i 790. Boston became a 



front (iover: Outdoor scene from the Herbert Collins Collection 

INSIDE cover: Dr. Cornelius N. Garland who founded t/ie Plymouth Hospital in 1008 ' 




IF-.: 



r- 




haven for free blacks. Most migrated from other north- 
ern states; a few came from the South. 

Blacks first worked as slaves and servants in white 
households. By 1700 they had settled as a group near 
the wharves of the North End in an area known as 
"New Guinea." Copp's Hill Burying Ground, a stop 
along Boston's Black History Trail at Hull and Snow- 
hill Streets, is the city's second oldest cemetery. More 



A square in the South End, c. igoo 

than 1,000 blacks were buried at CU)pp's Hill during 
the eighteenth century, l)ut only a few of the original 
tombstones remain today. 

Early in the nineteenth century, black people 
moved from the North End and settled on Beacon Hill 
and in the newly opened West End. 

During the nineteenth century, Boston's black pop- 
ulation grew steadily. Blacks migrated from Virginia, 



North Carolina and South Clarohna, as well as the 
West Indies and Canada. 

The West End could not accommodate the contin- 
uing influx of black people from various cultures and 
communities. Housing became rundown and rents be- 
came inflated. A movement to the S(uuh End began. 

Like the South End of today, the area became a 
lacially mi.xed one where blacks and whites —Irish, 
Yankees, Jews and Swedes — lived as neighbors. Only 
a few streets in the area were all black: Windsor, Cam- 
den, Kendall and Sawyer. 

Washington Street from Massachusetts Avenue to 
Rugglcs Street became a crowded business thorough- 
fare of stores and tenements; it remains so today. 
Buildings on Tremont Street housed shops on the 
ground level and apartments on upper floors. Streets 
were wide and lawns were attractive. 

More prosperous blacks lived on Buckingham 
Street, an area abandoned as residential when Back 
Bay Station was built in 1897. Houses were torn down 
and blacks moved to outlying areas. 

So was early Boston. 

"And honor to Crispus Atl ticks, who was leader and voice 
that day: 

The first to defy, and the first to die, with Maverick, 

Carr and Gray. 
Call it riot or revolution, or mob or crowd as you may. 
Such deaths have been seeds 0/ nations, such lives shall be 

honored for ay . . 

Written by John Boyle O'Reilly, these words grace a 
monument to Crispus Attucks on the Boston Common. 
On March 5, 1770, he became the first American mar- 
tyr, one of four men slain defying armed British soldiers 
in the Boston Massacre on the water front. From the 
rear of a crowd facing the soldiers, Attucks moved for- 
ward, shouting, "Do not be afraid. They dare not 
fire." The crowd surged closer to the redcoats. "Damn 
them! They dare not fire," shouted Attucks. "Fire! 
And be damned." 



By that time, Attucks and those who pushed up be- 
hind him were facing the British muskets. Someone 
threvN' a snowball. A British soldier was hit. Falling 
back, he fired. Other shots were fired. Attucks tum- 
bled downward, blood flowing. It was too late to re- 
treat. The crowd rumbled forward. More shots were 
fired. Three other men died beside Attucks. 

Three days later, Boston closed its businesses and 
honored the four heroes with a funeral. Bells from sur- 
rf)unding towns tolled in their honoi'. No one knows 
how or why Crispus Attucks appeared on this scene on 
that day. He was a runaway slave who had escaped 
from William Brown in his native Framingham, Mas- 
saf husetts, twenty years earlier. Brown had advertised 
for his recovery, offering a reward of 10 pounds. No 
one ever collected. 

Attucks was one of 800 blacks, one third of whom 
were free, living in Boston in i 770. A sailor more often 
at sea than in Boston, Attucks appeared on the public 
scene only briefly, as an opponent of slavery, as well as 
an advocate for .American freedom. 

Prince Hall was another significant early black 
Bostonian. A sailor from Baibados, he arrived in Bos- 
ton in the mid-eighteenth century. In 1776, a year af- 
ter Hall had come to town, Boston blacks filed a test 
case against slavery. This started a wave of test cases 
throughout New England, which helped some slaves 
to win their freedom. Men like Hall led rallies and 
public meetings against slavery. 

Hall made two important contributions to black 
progress. He founded and organized the black Masons, 
now known as Prince Hall Masons, and he persuaded 
George Washington to utilize black troops to fight the 
British. 

Becoming a Mason was not easy for Hall. He first 
applied to an American lodge, but was rejected. He 
and fourteen other black men were initiated into a 
British Army lodge on March 6, 1775. After the British 
left the area, they operated imder a limited permit as 
Afiican Lodge No. i. Hall was not satisfied with this 



3 



status. He and the black Masons finally received an Of- 
ficial charter fiom the Grand Lodge of England and 
oflScially became the African Lodge No. 459 in Boston 
on May 6, 1787. Hall also organized African lodges in 
Philadelphia and Providence, thus expanding the 
membership of Prince Hall Masons in our new nation. 

In early revolutionary days, Prince Hall and other 
black soldiers fought at Lexington, Concord and Bun- 
ker Hill as part of the Army of Cambridge. When 
George Washington became commander of the con- 
tinental armed forces, he did not permit them to join 
the Continental Army. Prince Hall went to work. He 
led a delegation of free blacks to complain to the new 
general. General Washington accepted their plea and 
restored their Army status. 

Throughout the war, Prince Hall led anti-slavery 
movements. After the war, he protested white violence 
against blacks. He spoke out against slavery and 
helped the cause of Islacks in the Masonry until he died 
on November 4, 1807. 

In addition to being a Mason and a soldier. Prince 
Hall was a minister. Professionally, he did well as an 
artisan and soap manufacturer. He also advocated 
equal educational opportunity for black children: 

"We must fear for our rising offspring to see them 
in ignorance in a land of gospel light, where there is 
provision made for them as well as others, and yet they 
can't enjoy them because they are black," Prince Hall 
said as he filed a public petition for equal education 
for Ijlacks in 1 787. At a later date, he asked Boston to 
build a school for black children. 

Primus Hall, a black man unrelated to Prince Hall, 
opened his home on Beacon Hill to black children. 
When funds ran short for this private school, sixty-six 
citizens filed for money from the Boston School Com- 
mittee. Their petition was denied. On his own, Primus 
Hall raised money from wealthy whites to keep the 
school going. 

By 1805, Boston's black Christian population had 



The members of the Knights of Pythias in the South End 



built and organized the African Meeting House on 
Smith Court. It still stands on Beacon Hill off Joy 
Street, the home of the Museum of Afro-American 
History. To accommodate increasing enrollment, the 
little school at the home of Primus Hall was moved to 
the basement of the African Meeting House. 

There the school remained until 1835, receiving 
S200 each year from the Boston School Committee. 
This school was also supported by a trust fund, estab- 
lished in 181 5 by a wealthy white, Abiel Smith. The 
Boston School Committee took control of the school, 
assigning the city's black children to it. 

In 1835, the City of Boston used some of the Smith 
fund to build the Abiel Smith School, which stands 
next door to the meeting house. The city still owns this 
building and leases it to an American Legion post. 

As this school became overcrowded — black stu- 
dents from East Boston had free ferry passes to attend 
— parents began to petition for school integration. 

In 1840 William C. Nell, who had studied at the 
African Meeting House School, together with white 
abrjlitionists William Lloyd Garrison, Wendell Phillips 
and others, filed the first equal schooling rights petition 
with the city government. Nothing happened. Later, 
in 1844, the School Committee did not respond to a 
petition to close the Smith school and to integrate the 
city's school system. 

After the failure of these and other petitions, black 
parents supported a lawsuit filed by Benjamin Roberts 
in 1 847 on behalf of his daughter, Sarah, who passed 
five other schools on her way to the Smith .School. An 
interracial legal duo, white Charles Sumner and black 
Robert Morris, argued the Roberts case. They lost. 

Black people took their fight to the state legislature, 
which finally passed a law in April 1885, prohibiting 
racially segregated schools throughout the Common- 
wealth. "Good bye, colored school!" shouted a little 
black boy who passed the closed Smith School on Sep- 
tember 3, 1885, the day other city schools opened to 
black children. 



5 



So ended pre-Givil War racial segregation in B(js- 
ton public schools. 

The Black Church — Home oj Early Militants 

Through the years, black people have li\ed in \ ir- 
tually every section of Boston. There is no Ijelter w ay 
to follow this movement of a people than to Ibllow the 
flow of the black church. Asked whether churches 
should move from community to community rather 
than remain behind when people leave, James Hen- 
derson expresses black thought when he says: 

"Whether we admit it or not, the gieatest influence 
on the black population of America has been the 
church. Whatever has enabled the church to become 
more available has been an asset. For a long time, the 
church will be the nucleus of Negro activity. A lot of us 
kick and say it has lost its impact. That is not true. We 
are a deeply religious people. We can't get away from 
it. It's part of us." 

White church bias caused the formation ol" black 
churches in Boston, as it did in other parts of the na- 
tion. 

Mr. Henderson speaks of his sons: "There was a big 
church on Ruggles Street, the Ruggles Street Baptist 
Clhurch. When my kids were small, my eldest son, Vic- 
tor, who is fair with light red hair and very athletic, 
was invited there by some boys from school. They 
asked him to come to join their clubs for their games. 
He went to the Ruggles Street Baptist Church and he 
was welcome there. He looked white, anyhow, al- 
most." 

Billy, Mr. Henderson's youngest son, who is dark 
\\ ith brown hair, decided to go too, and brought some 
of his friends. The people at church "looked askance," 
says Mr. Henderson. "One Sunday Billy came home 
crying, they didn't want him there anymore. His 
mother and I went out to the church. I gave them my 
little spiel. Finally, they came to the house. They 
wanted to pray. 



"I said, 'What the heck are you going to pray for?' 
" 'We want to pray with you.' 

" T don't w ant to pray with you, "I said, 'l)ecause if 
God has the same idea of praying that I have, your 
prayers won't get there. You are hypocrites. You are 
leading your congregation in hypocrisy. You are cater- 
ing to the prejudice of Boston. Go ahead. Pray all you 
please.' " 




Phyllis Whcatley, first female poet of African descent 

The assistant pastor worked with Billy, and even- 
tually the congregation held a brotherhood dinner in 
Roxbury. The Hendersons sat with the pastor and his 
wife. Mr. Henderson comments: 

"Victor didn't look black and he could get by. 
Here's his brother, Billy, of the same I'ather and the 
same mother, but his complexion isn't ([uite fair 



The African Meeting House, built by free blacks in 1806 



7 



enough. That may be reHgion, but it's not Christian- 
ity!" 

.Mi\ Henderson is talking about twentieth-century 
Boston ol several decades ago. Back in the eighteenth 
century, poet Phyllis Wheatley, as a freed slave, was 
Ibrccd to sit in the "Negro pew " at Old South Meeting 
House, where she was a member until her death in 
1784- 

Sitting in the black area of w hite churches w as the 
general custom for black people, slave or free, attend- 
ing .services in colonial days and the early nineteenth 
century. In 1805, one group of black people decided to 
do something about this situation and founded the 
African Baptist Clhurch. 

Free blacks ljuilt the African Meeting House in 
1805 to house the new church. Financed completely 
by free l)lack people, led by Cato Gardner, a iormer 
slave, the meeting house was constructed by black 
craftsmen and laborers. This building anchored the 
black settlement on Beacon Hill, an area which pro- 
tected black people from invading slave catchers. 

Popularly called "The Abolitionist C^hurch," the 
meeting house opened its doors to white al)olitionist 
William Lloyd Garrison in 1834 w hen he was refused 
the use of Faneuil Hall. 

Founded shortly thereafter was the Charles Street 
African Methodist Fpiscopal (AME) Church, now lo- 
cated in Roxbury. These two churches were increased 
to five black congregations by 1850. Today, People's 
Baptist Church in the South End and Twellth Baptist 
Church in Roxbury stand as descendants of the origi- 
nal African Baptist Church. 

One of New England's leading ministers is the 
Revi; RK.M) Richard M. Owens, pastor of Peo- 
ple's Ba]Jtist in the South End since 1936 and in\'olved 
w ith that ( iiuich since 1934. Reverend Owens, hon- 
oicd by the Roxl)uiy Kiwanis Club as its 1976 Man of 
the \'eai-, holds a fiist. He was the fust black elected 
Picsidcnt of the \e\v American Baptist Cluu'ches of 



Massachusetts. He is also a trustee of New England 
Baptist Hospital. 

He came to Boston in 1 934 from his native Lynch- 
burg, Virginia, after graduation from Virginia Theo- 
logical Seminary and College. He lived with his sister, 
Mrs. Mary White, who had been a resident of Boston 
lor twenty years. He tells why he came to Boston: 

"Boston had greater educational opportunity. I 
made application to Andover Newton Theological 
School. I was accepted and I came." 

His sister was a member of People's Baptist 
C:hurch. The Reverend Owens who has preached 
since he was a teen-ager, was invited to be a supply 
pastor for the church because the minister was sickly. 
He was called pastor in 1936, before he had finished 
Andover Newton. 

At first, he preached, but did not officially pastor 
the church, Reverend Owens says, because Andover 
Newton's president told church officers that school- 
work and pastoring were two big responsibilities. Rev- 
erend Owens says of this philosophy: 

"Of course, if you are a preacher and you are at a 
church, you are called upon to do things that a pastor 
does. I was as much pastor then as I am now. But I 
wasn't supposed to pastor; I was only supposed to 
preach on Sunday. 

"When I came here at the heel of the depression, 
this church gave food to people. It was active in com- 
mimity life and helped in a number of ways to alleviate 
suffering." 

People's Baptist C^hurch is the result of a 1915 
merger of three churches: St. Paul Baptist, from the or- 
iginal Meeting House congregation; Calvary Baptist, a 
split from Twelfth Baptist in 1892; and Morning Star 
Baptist. People's Baptist is the seventh oldest black 
church in the United States. 

Churches have changed since he came to Boston, 
says Reverend Owens. In the time of the Reverend 
David S. Klugh, who preceded him as pastor, Rever- 



8 



T/if Charles Street Meeting House, a center for black religious activities until igjg 




African Meeting House and the People's Baptist Church 



end Owens says black churches worked with white 
churches. 

"People's Baptist CHiurch had been active because 
Dr. Klusfh stood well with the white ministers. I think 
he was the one and perhaps the only man who bridged 
the gap and was friendly with other churches. I'd say 
the church then was related to other churches, not only 
black, t)ut white as well, in a rather unicjue way. 

"Dr. Klugh counseled and did a lot for people's 
personal lives. He was constantly hearing people's 



problems and bringing them together. It seemed like 
he majored in the pastoral side of the work. There are 
some pastors and some preachers. Dr. Klugh did both, 
uniquely." 

Another change in today's cluirch, says Reverend 
Owens, is that church members no longer come from 
the surrounding community. 

"Once I could practically clap my hand on Sunday 
morning and half fill the church because members 
lived all around it. And I had a bell in this church. 
There are very few of them now. That liell is an origi- 
nal cast by Paul Revere. I could ring that bell and get 
the church two-thirds full." 

Today, members come from the suburbs and all 
over Boston. Reverend Owens says: "They come back 
to this church because it's a landmark. It's an historical 
church. When urban renewal tore down the housing 
where people lived — ordinarily they were very poor — 
those people could not move back. We own a project 
ourselves, C^amfield Gardens, with 135 units. Less than 
a third of the people who live there attend this church 
and it's next door." 

The South End is changing and white people are 
moving h^ck. Reverend Owens suggests: 

"Blacks need to be awakened to the fact that more 
people are coming back, lest they lose a lot more to 
whites who are returning to be near school, the city, 
work." 

People's Baptist lacks the space to house communi- 
ty activities, but plans to build an educational build- 
ing. The church hopes to open facilities for a day-care 
center, a senior citizens meeting place and other com- 
munity activities. Church members work with prison- 
ers, sending i'orces to Framingliam, Norfolk and Wal- 
pole prisons. 

The church mission is changing, Re\erend Owens 
says, and one man cannot do it all. 

"In our church we can't pay all the people we 
need. I wish I had a staff to do all the things I'm doing 
— teach religious and convert classes, visit the sick, 



10 



l3ury the dead, marry people, go to the hospital, go to 
conventions. \Vc can't pay other people to do it." 

Black people are still together in seeking to create a 
better community and better race relations, says Rev- 
erend Owens, but '"By nature the church is not a poli- 
tical instrument. It does not involve itself too deeply. 
\'et, we are concerned uith what goes on and what 
happens. We have gone on occasion to talk to the 
mayor. We've joined groups to protest. We take part 
in everything that has to do with trying to bring about 
a better community and city." 

Black churches and black people work together, 
says Reverend Owens. Boston churches rallied to the 
cause of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. 

"Dr. King was simply a student while he lived in 
Boston. He preached at local churches, including Peo- 
ple's but mostly at Twelfth Baptist. I think King was a 
symljol, a very fine symbol, being a minister, pastoring 
a church and inspiring people. When he made his 
mo\ e, this church especially and all churches followed 
through and helped. We were wide awake to the move- 
ment." 

Twelfth Baptist Clhurch, originally The First Inde- 
pendent Baptist Clhurch, grew from an 1840 split at 
the African Meeting House. Under the Reverend 
Leonard A. Grimes, Twelfth Baptist became a haven 
for escaped slaves. In 1854 the church purchased the 
freedom of a meml^er, Anthony Burns, an escaped 
slave who had been returned to his owner in the South. 

Since helping runaway slaves fight the Fugitive 
Slave Law was costly, Twelfth Baptist had to close its 
doors temporarily. With the help of ministers and 
white abolitionists. Reverend Grimes was able to com- 
plete the building of the church and to buy freedom 
for members in slavery. 

By 1899, church members began to leave Beacon 
Hill for the South End. In 1906, Twelfth Baptist was 
relocated in the South End on Shawmut Avenue. To- 
day the church is located in Roxbury, near Dudley 
Station. 













■ 








T 


1 



II! mi 
I i 



P 1 W 1 




A window in Si. Cyprian s, second churcli built by blacks 

Only a few blocks away on Warren Street in Rox- 
bury is the Gharles Street AME (Ihurch which still re- 
tains its name from its founding on Beacon Hill around 
1818. Between 1876 and 1939, this church was located 
in the old Gharles Street Meeting Hf)use, originally 



1 1 



home to a white Baptist congregation in the West End. 

A center for black religious and civic programs, 
( :harles Street AME finally moved fi-om Charles Street 
in 1939 to the former home of the white St. Angarius 
Church. There, under the Reverend Walter Davis, 
who retired in 1974, Charles Street AME continued 
its community leadership role in Roxbury. 

When the Methodist Episcopal Church was organ- 
ized in Boston in 1790, Ijlacks liegan to attend services. 
By 1 81 8, black members of the Bromfield Street Meth- 
odist Episcopal Church felt they should separate from 
the white congregation. A church was established on 
Beacon Hill in 1823 moved to larger quarters in 
'835- 



12 




The choir of 
Fourth Methodist Church 
which David Walker 
also attended, igsG 



The church was a hideout for fugitive slaves as they 
\N aited for the Underground Railroad to carry them to 
freedom in Canada. In 1903 the building was sold and 
the congregation lost its Revere Street home. Its title 
had been owned by Bromfield Street Methodist. In 
1 9 1 1 , the black congregation became Eourth Metho- 
dist and moved to the South End. 

The chui ch sponsored the Hattie B. Cooper Com- 
munity Center, which still exists and has grown stead- 
ily in size and infiuence. In May 1949, Fourth Metho- 
dist became Union Methodist C Church and moved 
again to its present site, spacious c|uarters on Columbus 
Avenue once ovsned by the I'nion Congregational 
C^huich. 



Only the African Meeting House stands as a black- 
ou ncd memory of the churches where preachers thun- 
dered their sermons on Beacon Hill. Today black 
churches of many denominations are located in the 
South End, Roxbury, Dorchester, Mattapan — wher- 
ever l)lack people live in Boston. 

The churches have followed the movement of the 
cil\"s i^lack minority. 

Political Action 

"Are we men! I ask . . . are we MEN?" 

So wrote David Walker in 1829 when he created 
Walker's Appeal, a series of pamphlets advising black 
people, free or slave, not to be satisfied with their lot. 

David Walker was a free man who moved from 
North Carolina to Boston to live and operate his own 
printing firm. In his articles, fully titled David Walker's 
Appeal, in Four Articles; Together with a Preamble to the 
Colored Citizens of the World But in Particular, and Very Ex- 
pressly, to Those of the United States of America, Walker 
wrote: 

'"Did our creator make us to be slaves to the dust 
and ashes like ourselves? Are they not dying worms as 
well as we? How we could be submissive to a gang of 
men, whom we cannot tell whether they are as good as 
ourselves or not, I never conceive . . . America is more 
our country than it is the whites' — we have enriched it 
with our blood and tears. . . . And they will drive us 
from our property and homes w hich we have earned 
with our blood." 

Walker's Appeal fell like a bombshell in the South, 
especially among slaveholders. Many states forbade its 
distribution; copies showed up, nevertheless. Three 
state legislatures held secret sessions on the pamphlet. 
Rewards were offered for Walker: Si 0,000 alive or 
$1,000 dead. 

Walker's family and friends in Boston suggested 
that he leave the United States for Canada. He re- 
fused. Not only did he continue the Appeal, but he also 




Lewis Hoyden 

wrote for the first black newspaper, Freedom's Journal. 
In 1830, Walker was found dead. 

Walker's writing set a standard for freedom bearers 
that has epitomized Boston as the fabled "'Chadle oi 
Liberty" through the years. 

Two years after Walker's death, the New England 
Anti-Slavery Society was organized at the African 
Meeting House l)y whites. In 1841 the Society em- 
ployed Frederick Douglass as a paid lecturer. Boston 
became the center of abolitionist and anti-slavery ac- 



13 



tivity by both blacks and whites. By the end of the 
Civil War, its reputation for freedom attracted former 
slaves and free blacks to Boston. 

Black people established their own lousinesses and 
social institutions. They began to exercise voting rights 
and to gain some political status. In 1859 Lewis Hay- 
den, once a fugitive slave from Kentucky, became the 
first black public appointee when he was named a mes- 
senger to the Massachusetts Secretary of State. 

Living dangerously brought Hayden prominence 
in the pre-Civil War days of the Undergroimd Rail- 
road. His home at 66 Phillips Street became a haven 
for runaway slaves, a major station on the Under- 
ground Railroad. Slaves crawled through a secret tun- 
nel into his home, where they were fed and clothed and 
then sent on to freedom. 

Hayden himself had escaped slavery via the Under- 
ground Railroad. In Boston, he operated a clothing 
store on Cambridge Street. Through this source, he 
helped to clothe escapees. His store became the second 
largest black-owned business in Boston. In his multi- 
faceted life, Hayden was also a Prince Hall Mason and 
a founder of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. 

His public career climaxed in 1873 when he was 
elected to the Massachusetts House of Representatives. 
Hayden, however, was not the first black memljer of 
the state legislature. This honor went to two men in 
1866: Edv^in G. Walker, son of David Walker of Walk- 
er's Appeal fame; and Charles L. Mitchell, a Civil War 
veteran. Each served a year. 

John J. .Smith, a barber who had been active in the 
anti-slavery movement, was elected to the state's 
House in 1868 and 1869. He was returned to the leg- 
islature in 1873 along with another black, Joshua B. 
Smith, a caterer by profession. 

Boston's first black lawyer, George L. Ruflin, was 
elected to the House in 1870 and 1871. (The state's 
first black lawyer, Macon B. Allen, was admitted to the 
bar in 1845 after passing the bar examinations in 
Worcester.) Ruflin was elected to the Boston City 



Council in 1875 and was named judge of the City 
Coui t in the Charlestown district in 1883. A graduate 
of Harvard Law .School, Ruiiin was a barber Ijefore 
entering law. 

By 1875, black people were a majority in the West 
End. The city was redistricted and black power at the 
polls was stymied. 

Because of the heroism of the Massachusetts 54th 
Regiment during the Civil War, a number of veterans 
received federal appointments. These included John 
Redmond, who was appointed a light inspector in 
1865 and promoted to Customs House clerk in 1871. 

William Dupree moved from mailman to superin- 
tendent of a postal substation in the South End. 
CHiarles Mitchell, a former legislator, became a cus- 
toms inspector in 1869. James Monroe Trotter, father 
of the famed William Monroe Trotter, became the 
first black clerk in the Post Office and was later up- 
graded to director of the registered letter division. He 
wrote the first history of black musicians, Music a/id 
Some Hio/ilv Musical People, published in 1878. 

77?^' Monroe Trotter Influence 

No story about black political and social action in 
Boston is complete without reference to William Mon- 
roe Trotter and his newspaper. The Guardian. 

'Tn a very real sense Trotter was Boston, and Bos- 
ton in its finest sense was Trotter," recalled black jour- 
nalist William Worthy in a Boston Globe story, "South 
End Memories." 

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, the Rev- 
erend Ike, Howard Thurman and many other well 
known black leaders have spent key parts of their lives 
in Boston, but none has had the ongoing impact on 
this city that Trotter has had. He was founder, editor 
and publisher of the tlmmdering Guardian from 1901 
until 1934. 

Throughout his life. Trotter protested everything 
he even remotely suspected of drawing the color line 



14 




Detail of the monument to the j^th Regiment 



or assigning Ijlack people to an inferior and segregated 
status. He was uncompromising in liis demand for full 
and immediate equality for Afro-Americans. By 1905, 
Trotter, Dr. W. E. B. DuBois and an integrated group 
founded the Niagara Movement, which later became 
the NAACP. In 1914, he went to the White House to 
protest to President Woodrow Wilson the segregation 
of Ijlack federal employees. Trotter was a Phi Beta 



Kappa graduate of Harvard, class of 1895. In that 
same year, in Atlanta, Booker T. Washington deliv- 
ered his C'otton States E.xposition address which es- 
tablished two camps of black thought in the nation, a 
division which still exists today. 

"Our greatest danger," said Mr. Washington, "is 
tliat in the great leap from slavery to freedf)m we may 
overlook the fact that the masses of us are to live hy the 
productions of our hands . . . No race can prosper till 
it learns that there is as much dignity in tilling a field 
as in writing a poem. It is at the bottom of life we must 
begin, and not at the top ..." 

Throughout his life. Trotter refused to accept this 
premise. Through the Guardian, he fought Bf)oker T. 
Washington. In July 1902, Trotter made his first pub- 
lic demonstration in Boston against Washington. 
Melnea C;..\ss, the "First Lady of Roxbury," ex- 
plains the basis of Trotter's protest: 

"Their ideologies were so different. Booker T. 
Washington lielieved in training black people's hands 
and minds to work in the trades he felt were easier to 
enter. . . . Black men could find work and make a living 
as carpenters and plumbers and mechanics. 

"But Trotter felt that relegating them to that kind 
of work without advising them to seek higher educa- 
tion, to become doctors and lawyers, was nf)t accept- 
able." 

In preparing for his protest against Washington, 
Trotter had worked out nine cjuestions to ask him. He 
planned tf) publish the questions and answers in the 
Guardian. On the big night, more than 2,000 people 
filled the Columbus Avenue AME Zion Clhurch. As 
Washington began to speak, a hostile group shouted 
cjucsti(jns at him. They were removed from the church. 

Confusion reigned. Washington tried to speak. 
Trotter jumped on a chair and began to shout his 
cjuestions. Washington never did have a chance to give 
his address. Trotter and his sister, Maude, were ar- 
rested and jailed. His sister was accused of stabbing a 
policeman with a hatpin. 7 heir mother posted l)ail for 



15 




William Monroe Trotter, c. i8g8 

them. Tiottcr was fined 850 and sentenced to thirty 
days in jail. 

Mrs. Class desci-il)es the eonlVtjntation as her moth- 
er-in-law, Mrs. Rosa Brown, related it: 

"My mother-in-law was there. She said that it 
went ri^;ht into a fist ii^iit; no one had exj^ected that. 
It ((ot out oi'hand. J rolter's snppoi ters had planned to 
sprinkle around in the place and disturl) the meeting. 

■" The sponsors had heard about it and were ready 
lor them. They had police there. It was really too bad. 
.\itlu)ui>li they had a dillerence of opinion, that's one 
thinti; that never should have liappened. 



"Trotter wanted to speak and they wouldn't let 
him. He wasn't invited to speak. The event had been 
planned for Booker T. Washington." 

One of Trotter's most memorable battles was 
waged against the establishment of a predominantly 
black hospital, to be called the New Plymouth Hospi- 
tal and housed in the old Beth Israel Hospital in upper 




Lucille Allen, graduate oj the J\ur.us"l 1 itniuig Seluxil, 1^24 



16 



Roxbury. The idea was proposed and nurtured by Dr. 
Cornelius X. Garland. 

Dr. Garland was a nativ e of Alabama and a gradu- 
ate of two black colleges, Livingstone for undergradu- 
ate study and Shaw University for medical study. He 
had established the Plymouth Hospital and Nurse's 
Training .Schf)ol in 1908, only one block from Boston 
City Hospital on East Springfield Street. This hospital 
was open to all, regardless of race, color or creed, and 
ofTered an affiliation to black physicians who, as a 
group, were not allowed to study or practice at Boston 
hospitals, including City Hospital. 

Li ciLLE Allen recalls the nursing school was 
open to young w'omen, aged nineteen to thirty-five, 
with a "grammar school education and the physical 
capacity to undergo the strenuous life which necesarily 
accompanies the proiession of a nurse." 

Jn 1928, Dr. Garland formed an interracial com- 



18 




mittee to enlarge Plymouth to serve the black popula- 
tion and to be staffed by blacks. Monroe Trotter and a 
prominent black physician. Dr. William Worthy, and 
Dr. John Hall Sr. and Dr. W. O. Taylor were opposed 
to a separate black hospital. They began to integrate 
City Hospital. 

Mr. Trotter and Dr. Worthy openly opposed Dr. 
Garland's interracial committee, forcing it to disband 
within two months. They then intensified their efforts 
to integrate City Hospital. 

On September 6, 1929, the trustees of City Hospital 
voted to admit two Ijlack women, Francis Harris and 
Letitia Campfield, to its nursing school. Two years la- 
ter, Dr. John Hall H became the first black intern to 
train at Boston Caty Hospital. 

Although Mr. Trotter and Dr. Worthy successfully 
integrated City Hospital, they were severely criti- 
cized by black people lor opposing the expansion of 



Plymouth Hospital. Recalling those days, Myrtle 
Worthy, daughter of Dr. Worthy, says: 

"A second-rate, segiegated hospital was not what 
my father or Mr. Trotter wanted. My lather learned 
that the old frame hospital was not worth the 8125,000 
to be paid and that it was to be a hospital for colored.'" 

Mrs. C'ass says the fight against Plymouth Hospital 
was not one that black people supported: 

"Dr. Garland wanted a place where colored people 
could go and freely train. Trotter fought that idea and 
it died. That's one thing I regret that he did. 

"We needed that hospital. If we had put our forces 
l)ehind it, white and black would have gone there. 
.Vnything we have, white people come to see what 
we're doing. Who knows? It might have been a purely 
integrated place whether we wanted it or not. But 
Trotter didn't see it. 

"A lot of people put money into it. It just didn't 
work and that was a tragedy. We could have owned a 
hospital right near where I live. A monument to black 
people's ingenuity. It would have been wonderful." 

Mrs. Cass recalls lots of stories about Mr. Trotter. 
As a young married woman, she became involved 
with him through her mother-in-law, Mrs. Rosa 
Brown, "one of the leading figures in the NAACP and 
Equal Rights League here." 

"I was thrown in touch w ith him as a young wom- 
an," Mrs. Cass says. "I became interested in communi- 
ty work through my mother-in-law. She was out there 
pioneering along with all those people who preceded 
us and Mr. Trotter, who was a fighter. He believed in 
demanding w hat he wanted for black people. He or- 
ganized groups to protest." 

Mrs. Cass describes his demonstration against the 
downtown showing of the movie. Birth of a \ation: 

"His wife, his sister Maude and he held a l)ig meet- 
ing at Columbus Avenue AME Zion Church. They 
marched from there to the theatre and surrounded it. 
Those white people were determined to show it, but 
finally they had to take it ofT. That is the kind of pro- 



test Mr. Trotter led in this city that made a difference 
in how we were treated." 

Mrs. C'ass recalls how Mr. Trotter halted racial dis- 
crimination against l)lack people at the Metropolitan 
Life Insurance ofiice on Warren Street in Roxbury, a 
building that black people now operate: 

'"All of us colored people — no white people — had 
to stand in line to pay our insurance. I said to one or 
two people, 'This is terrible; w e ought to see w hat's the 
matter.' When I talked to what I thought was one of 
the head men, he said he didn't have anything to do 
with it. 

"I told Mr. Trotter, "Vou should go up there and 
see what they're going to do aljout our standing in 
line.' He went in to see the manager. The manager 
wouldn't see him. . . . So, he got some people together 
and we picketed the insurance company. The crowd 
got bigger and bigger because all the colored people 
that came by joined the line." 

Finally, the manager did see Mr. Trotter. 

"I'll never forget it," Mrs. Cass says. "In another 
couple of weeks all of that was changed. He could af- 
fect things. He stuck at it. He never gave up. And he 
went by himself if nobody wanted to go with him. 
That's the kind of dauntless man he w as. 

"The masses of people came behind him and 
helped him. They didn't buy his paper as much as I 
w ish they had, to make it a flourishing affair. I'm sorry 
they didn't support the paper as much as they should 
have — with their money." 

Mrs. C'ass heads the Equal Rights League which 
Trotter founded. "I remember the first day of the Bos- 
ton Equal Rights League, she says. The League was 
piominent and active in equal rights. Its belief was 
that all people are created equal, and black and white 
are entitled to their rights." 

The League perpetuates the Trotter legend 
through the observance of the Boston Massacre each 
year on March 5. The ceremony begins on State Street 
where tiie massacre took place, continues to the Gran- 



19 




March jl/i observance of the Boston Massacre led by the Boston Equal Rights League 



ary Burial Ground and winds up with a lecture and 
(lucstion-answer forum on tlie Bostcni Gonmion. 

Another tribute to the editor stands in Roxlnuv, 
tin- W'ilhani Monroe Trotter Schof)!, a fully intetfrated 
school in the heart of a i)lack connnunitv. The school 



was named for Trotter only after the Equal Rights 
League had fought for more than six years. 

William Monroe Trotter was controversial. Dr. 
DuBois wrote in his l)ook, Dusk of Dawn: "The (iuardian 
was bitter, satirical, and perscMial, but it was well ed- 



ited, it was earnest, and it published facts. It attracted 
wide attention among colored people; it circulated 
among them all over the country; it was quoted and 
discussed. I did not wholly agree with the Guardian and 
indeed only a few Negroes did, but nearly all read it 
and were influenced by it." 

And there were the Public People 

In spite of Trotter's opposition, Booker T. Wash- 
ington's theories had an impact on Boston's black busi- 
ness persons and professionals. 

Before the days of Booker T. Washington, black 
men were the barbers for the city's population. Black 
women were cosmetologists — "hairdressers" in those 
days. Black entrepreneurs ran catering, tailoring and 
photography services, newstands and restaurants. 

Because the black population of Boston until re- 
cently has been small, to a large degree, black busi- 
nesses have had to rely on white patronage. Some util- 
ized white employees. 

J. H. Lewis operated the Lewis Tailoring Establish- 
ment at the turn of the twentieth century. Bell-bottom 
trousers were his specialty. Joseph Lee operated a ca- 
tering firm and two hotels, one a resort, Scjuantum Inn 
on the South Shore; and the other, a hotel, the Wood- 
land Park in Newton. Lee invented two machines; a 
crumber to utilize leftover bread for puddings, dressing 
or fried fish, and a bread-making machine to serv'e his 
catering and hotel operations. Gilbert C. Harris was 
New England's largest wig maker. 

Tremont Street was "the street" for black activity. 
The Eureka Cooperative Bank at 930 Tremont Street 
was "the only bank in the East owned and operated by 
colored people." Thomas E. Lucas ran the "cool, 
clean, commodius" Southern Dining Room, "Good 
food and prompt attentive service have made this a 
most desirable place for discriminating people." 
"Strictly pure" ice cream and "homemade" candies 




Studio portrait, c. igso 



were produced by Benjamin Brothers, wholesalers and 
retailers. 

Although Trotter achieved national attention be- 
cause of his ongoing feud with Booker T. Washington, 
not all Bostonians felt as he did. In spite of opposition 
from Trotter and Integrationists, Washington founded 
the National Business League (NBL) in Boston in 1900, 
at the home of Dr. Sam Curtney, a graduate of Har- 



21 



Adi't'i tiH'menl for the Southern Diningroom 



vard Medical School. Originally called the National 
Negro Business League, the NBL was created because 
black people felt "left out of the nation's economic 
mainstream." 

The League held a national convention in Boston 
in 1 91 5 and returned to the Hub periodically in inter- 
vening years. When the NBL held its diamond anni- 
versary convention in Boston in 1975 as part of the 
city's Bicentennial celebration, it honored Estella 
V. Crosby, who was chairman of a National Business 



League (NBL) convention held in Boston more than 
twenty years ago. 

Mrs. Crosljy operated her own beauty shop for 
years and also ran a retail store on Tremont Street 
when it buzzed as the hub of black business enterprise 
in Boston. She organized the Housewives League and 
\\ orked with the League of Women Voters. 

Born in Alexandria, Virginia, Mrs. Crosby was 
brought to Boston by her parents when she was a year 
old. Her parents lived in the South End, but Mrs. 



22 



Crosby began her work as a beautician in the West 
End. 

"I fixed hair for whites and blacks," she says. "La- 
ter I moved to Tremont Street, where I also ran a dry 
goods store. This store did business w ith white and col- 
ored, too." 

Her father inspired hei', she says: 
"My lather came to Boston w ith a friend. He had 
three daughters and decided he would give us the op- 
portunity to make good. He went to MIT (Massachu- 
setts Institute of Technology) and Harvard." 

Mrs. Crosby also studied lousiness at Harvard, not 
for a degree, but to learn how to operate her enter- 
prises properly. 

"I was ai'raid of men," Mrs. C'rosby says, "but ev- 
erybody helped me. In my hairdressing business, I 
fixed hair for prostitutes, both white and black. They 
were bad girls, but I never got hin t and nobody e\'er 
bothered me." 

Mrs. Crosliy did business with one madam who had 
ten girls working for hei'. 

"People warned me al)()ut these l)ad folks. I went 
out at night often to fix the hair of entertainers in night 
spots in the red light district. I was always afraid, al- 
though I was not one who did a lot of carrying on." 

Her father left her and her brother, Johnny Allen, 
who later became a jazz pianist, a square block of 
property and she managed it for both of them. 

Mrs. Crosby is married to Adrian Crosby, a re- 
tired seaman and Pullman porter. 

"I spent 43 years at sea," says Mr. Crosby, "and 
did some work ashore. On ship, I did many things. I 
was a cook, pantryman, messman and assistant stew- 
ard. Most of my work was on freighters. Passenger 
ships didn't hire many colored." 

On land, Mr. Crosby worked on the railroad as a 
car cleaner and porter. He and his wile still take an in- 
terest in business. 

Mrs. Crosby did not support Monroe Trotter in 
his activities against Booker T. Washington. She advo- 



cated economic progress, no matter how menial the 
approach to making money. She explains her views: 

"Tr(jttei' and people like him wanted to climb too 
fast. They wanted to l>e with the other race. They 
could have done many things, biU didn't. They could 
have had concessions — shoe shine parlois, l)aibcr 
shops, grooming services. Negroes groomed whites 
down .South, l)ut nobody did il here. 

"It seemed too menial to these jjcopie. Today 
there isn't a decent l)lack restaurant in town. There 
used to be lots of good ones. 

"There were other l)usinesses. One man contracted 
to clean all the theatres downtown after closing. That 
idea died with him. John Lane used to clean windows 
dow ntown; at one time, he employed 24 men. That's 
gone. We seiviced Scollay Scjuare. Those weie the 
good days." 

.'\lthough Mrs. Chcjsby does not think black people 
have achieved up to their potential, she says white ra- 
cism has existed in Boston for years. " There were 
fights with whites. It was terrible. C'olored people 
moved away from Beacon Hill. It was terril)le to go to 
the beaches, even Revere Beach." 

While Mrs. Cr()sl)y was active in business, J. 
Gideon CJ.\rnett became a dentist. She was very 
pragmatic. 

"I never had any famous patients,"' Dr. Ciarnett 
says. 'T just had patients who paid me. Some of them 
came from New York and from as far away as Wash- 
ington. One frf)m Washington called on me two years 
ago, saying he had saved his dental woi k lor me. I told 
him, T'm sorry, l)ut I'm not doing any more work.'" 

She retired in 1970. A Bostonian for sixty-five 
years, she was l?orn and spent her early childhood in 
Liverpool, Nova Scotia. Dr. Garnett talks about her 
role as a woman dentist: 

"When I first started, patients came to the ofiice 
and saw me. They asked for the dentist. 'I'm the den- 
tist,' I said. 

"They said, 'Oh, I wanted a real dentist!' 



23 




INTERIOR VIEW OF EUREKA CO-OPERATIVE BANK 

930 Tremont Street Boston, Mass. 

The only Bank in the East owned and operated by Colored people. For 
particulars, pamphlets may be had at Convention Hall or at the Bank 

DAVID E. CRAWFORD, Treasurer 




CASTLE BUILDING, 456 Tremont St., Boston, Mass. 
Rooma for Fraternal OrKSnijalions. Ternu rra»onable. Apply to Superinlcndcnl on premises 
or to DAVID E CRAWFORD. Owner. 930 Tremont Street. Boston. Mass 



"And they left, especially the men. 

"One day a man who was really suffering said, 
'Oh, dear, I wanted a real dentist; my tooth is aching 
so much.' 

"'I could probably relieve you. Why don't you sit 
down in the chair?' 

"He sat in the chair and I injected novacaine. He 
slid off the chair. When I took the tooth out, he fainted. 
After he came to, he said, 'Well, I guess you are a den- 
tist!'" 

Dr. Garnett's mother brought her four children to 
Boston when her husband died. Dr. Garnett walked to 
dental school at Tufts University every day and then 
returned home to keep house for the family. After mar- 
riage and children, Dr. Garnett lived in Roxbury 
where she practiced dentistry from an office in her 
home. The year she graduated from Tufts, Mrs. Gar- 
nett was indirectly involved in the city police strike of 
1 91 9. Her husband was one of the first black policemen 
hired. She says: 

"The city was up in arms; there was no protection. 
But that didn't last too long. Men took the examina- 
tion and were put right on the force. My husband 
passed the exam, but he was three pounds too light. He 
drank cod liver oil and gained those three pounds." 

Dr. Garnett was afraid for her husband as a police- 
man. "Don't worry about me; I can take care of my- 
self," he told her. "And he took care of himself," she 
said. "He had some narrow escapes, but he always 
managed to come out on top. If he were on the force 
today, he'd be dead, because he was a fair officer. The 
kids don't fear the cops like they used to. All my hus- 
band had to do was walk down the streets and they 
ran." 

Memories of Early Twentieth-Century Boston 

The turn of the twentieth century brought an era 
of good feeling and of frustration, an era to rememl>er. 
Boston was a city of integration and segregation, of 



Melnea Cass, The First Lady of Roxbury 

Monroe Trotter and Booker T. Washington, of black 
people growing up and becoming cultured, of black 
people hitting the street and hustling, of prim and 
proper children going to church with the family every 
Sunday, of black people beginning to vote, of black 
women becoming sufTragettes along with white wo- 
men. 

After long years of residence in Boston, black peo- 
ple have retained their identity. Mrs. Melnea Cass de- 
scribes one phase of black culture, food, and how it was 
adapted by white people: 



25 



"Every year my grandparents sent us things from 
the garden, meal and southern peas. Things hke 
black-eyed peas and pork products weren't on the mar- 
ket then. My grandparents killed pig, cured it and 
sent us the kind of meat they had back home." 

Today, ifa diner visits Bob the Chef's restaurant on 
Columbus Avenue, he will notice that this soul food 
emporium features pork chitterlings as one of its two 
specialities. It costs $4.25, the same price charged for a 
steak. The restaurant also sells trotters (pig's feet), ham 
hocks and other such food, at the same price as liver or 
ham or meat loaf 



Nursery school class at the Robert Gould Shaw House, c. ig§o 

Speaking of her experiences in the early i goo's, 
Mrs. Cass remarks: 

"Some of these foods came on the market in Boston 
because people demanded them. No matter what it is 
you want, business people will try to get it. They began 
to meet demands. I remember when you could not buy 
hominy grits or pig's feet in the store. My mother went 
to the slaughterhouse in Brighton where they gave 
away chitterlings. She could get it for nothing. They 
didn't know what to do with it. 

"Black people knew what to do with it, but white 
people just wondered. When business people found out 



26 



what black people did with this food, they made mon- 
ey on it. Now they sell them frozen. Think of frozen 
chitterlings on the market! I never thought I'd live to 
see that. After all, they were dirty and filthy. We 
cleaned them for two or three days. All that's been 
commercialized." 

Mrs. Cass, president of the Women's Service Club, 
recalls many cultural and civic activities, especially 
those of the Women's Service Club — of Shaw House, 
of helping soldiers — of aiding the elderly and of church 
outreach. 

Today is a new day, she says as she reminisces: 

"We lived through many things that young people 
of today don't have to endure. Now we're living in a 
new day and we can realize what a change has come — 
everything is so beautiful and systematized. We enjoy 
this life; most of us are grateful. Of course, some people 
don't appreciate it." 

"Some of us have lived to see people get jobs where 
they never had them before. Somebody had to press 
for these jobs. Some of us were in there pressing. 1 was. 
So, Fm glad to be living and seeing all the changes." 

As a little girl, Helen Louise Walker carried 
lunches to her father wherever he worked, laying as- 
phalt on the streets of the city. He had come to Boston 
in the i88os after being carried as a slave from his na- 
tive North Carolina to Nova Scotia. 

"Any place he was laying asphalt, I took his 
lunch," she says. "He never went outside of Boston 
where he couldn't come home on Saturday night. 
When there was no asphalt work, he worked with fur- 
niture movers. He had a rag license. He bought rags. 
He was a busy person." 

Mrs. Walker's father often sold junk, but not in the 
tradition of television's Sanford and Son. 

"My father didn't have to holler in the street for his 
junk because years ago most of the houses in Brookline 
and Newton had janitors. My father knew quite a few 
of them. They saved things for him and he'd come 
back to town with a piled wagon. Once in a while he 



Helen Walker and family 



went around the city and picked up, but most of the 
time he knew where to get his load." 

Mis. Walker, aged seventy, was born at 2 1 Kendall 
Street, but she did not grow up there "because that 
was only one room. As soon as my mother was able, my 
parents moved because that was their plan." She grew 
up on Flagg street in the South End. 



27 



"I rememljer when I was the only girl of my race 
llicrc. I played with children of different nationalities 
who lived there. VVc played jackstones and fall and 
jump rope ... I never fought. I have never been hit 
and I have iievei" hit anyone. 

'"We'd call names, hut then we'd get ready to play 
again. We'd call to one another: 'Do you want to play 
ball, want to take an end of the rope, play hopscotch.'" 

As an only child, Mrs. Walker's household tasks 



Workmen, from the Herbert Collins Collection 

were to "bring the coal and wood up from the cellar to 
the second floor; fill the lamps; even ofTthe wicks; keep 
the chimneys clean. I fi.xed the lamps for all the 
rooms." 

Schools were separate for boys and girls at the up- 
per level. Mrs. Walker talks of her high scIkjoI studies: 

"The High School of Practical Arts had a nice cur- 
riculum. A lot of people scorned it; many felt that il 
you didn't have a literary education, you were nobody. 



28 



Practical Arts did not teach language, but it offered 
most of the same subjects taught at other schools. The 
headmaster thought that any woman, regardless of her 
status in life, should know how to take care of a home. 
And that was one of our subjects. We could also study 
economics, dressmaking, millinery, business, or art." 

This practical training served Mrs. Walker well. 
Her first job as a high school freshman was taking care 
of twins on Christmas vacation. 

"The next thing I did was to go to serve lunch and 
wash dishes for a family in Brookline who owned a 
store on Washington Street. I went there ev^ery Sun- 
day. I also worked in the lunch room at school because 
the cooking class cooked the lunches." 

As an old-fashioned mother, she believes in serving 
her family, cooking and sewing for them. When asked 
if she made rice pudding, she responds: 

"What would I have done with all those kids if I 
hadn't made puddings and everything else? 

"Tm sorry for children who go to school hungry. I 
haven't got any patience with mothers who don't give 
their children breakfast. I don't think mothers should 
be pampered like that. I was such a black mammy that 
I used to get up to give my children breakfast and fi.x 
their lunches. 

'"One morning I was mashing up hamburgers from 
the night before. I didn't have enough mayonnaise. So, 
I threw some ketchup in to make it spread. My family 
has been eating hamburgers with mayonnaise and 
ketchup ever since. Lord knows that was a mishap!" 

Mrs. Walker speaks of her relationships with her 
father and her husband: 

"I'm not looking for someone to give me some- 
thing. I wasn't brought up that way. My father 
wouldn't let me go any place with charity. He bought 
his liquor and he bought his food and he kept some- 
thing on my back, too. It may not have been the kind 
of coat I wanted, but I always had a coat on my back. 
He didn't let me go places where things were doled 
out. 




Rachel Walker 



"During Prohibition I had to be very careful where 
I went because I didn't want my lather coming and 
cussing at people because I was in their house and they 
were selling licjuor. Even if he was buying moonshine, 
I better not go where it was. He'd bring his moonshine 
home and he'd reek. His job would be sitting there and 
the moonshine would be dropping down through some 
cotton batting and charcoal to purify it. While that 
gallon was being purified, he drank another gallon. 
I've seen plenty of liquor in my day." 

She calls her husband ""fussy." One day he took the 



29 



wTona; lunch ba,^ to work and found a child's meat 
sandwich and jelly sandwich. He took only one sand- 
wich to work for lutich. 

■'W ho eats all this.'" he asked. "How many sand- 
wiches do you ,u;ive these kids? No wonder I haven't 
got any money." 

Of her husband, she says: 

"He was the happiest man \\ hen I was iKuefoot and 
pres^nant. He really laus^hed then. He was iiappy. Last 
time, I didn't get to church because I had the shoes, 
l)ut I didn't have the hat, or I had the hat, i)ut I didn't 
have the shoes. He got all dressed and shined his white 
shoes. If any polish got in the crevices or perforations 
of his shoes, he picked it out with a toothpick. He came 
and stood in front of mama. Then he said to me: 'Why 
don't you sit in the back yard.^' " 

Mrs. Walker has eight children. She tells this story 
of Rachel, her oldest: 

"If my children didn't go to chuich, they didn't go 
out. One Sunday morning Rachel got up so sick she 
couldn't go to Sunday school. She stayed upstairs; I 
don't think she even came down to eat. We weren't too 
far from the pond and anybody coming from church 
would pass this way. 

'T don't know what Ijrought me from the kitchen 
to the dining room. As I was coming through, I saw 
some girls coming toward the house. By the time I 
reached the dining room door, Miss Rachel was com- 
ing downstairs with her coat on. I got to the door first 
and a giil said, "Clan Rachel go for a walk?' 

"'No, dear," I said. "Rachel is sick. I don't want her 
to die in the street." " 

Although she has ne\ei- been an activist, Mrs. 
Walker is aware of racism in Boston. She tells of an in- 
cident in which her cousin, a Navy man, w as l)eaten up 
l)y whites in Oharlestown: 

"Usually the boys in the Nav\' would go back to 
ship in a group oi at least two or three. 'I'liis night, he 
went back alone. And they beat him. This hapix-ncd 
about 1922 or 1923."' 



When asked why, she responds: 

"Why do white folks do anything that's not right? 
I imagine when some of them sit and talk, they have 
hand-me-down conversations about what they used to 
do to the nigger. If they got after you years ago, there 
might not be another Negro around to help. If they 
jumped you then, you were just jumped." 

Women's liberation does not impress Mrs. Walker: 

"My children tell me I'm mi.xed up. I don't say 
women can t be gc^od politicians, but somebody needs 
to keep the pot boiling. I do think if a woman is work- 
ing and doing the same work a man is doing, she 
should get the same pay he gets. 

"There arc some things men do that I don't want 
to do. I don't want to run a bulldozer. I don't think 
women need all that muscle. In some countries, I un- 
derstand that women do that kind of work. Our slaves 
didn't do too much of that stuff. They were picking 
cotton. Or nursing somebody's bal^y." 

Mrs. Walker was not involved in the civil rights 
movements of the '50s and '60s. 

"I had just stopped growing babies then. I was still 
home washing diapers. I never had a washing ma- 
chine. Just home washing diapers, scrubijing floors." 

She felt she should be at home with her children, 
not running up and down the street after them. 

Today, she is afraid to go out in the dark. 

"When I was young, I'd go everyplace, come 
home, get off the streetcar and walk. Nobody bothered 
me. We didn't have cars. We didn't ride as much as 
most people do now. We'd just walk, high heels and all, 
walk. Nobody said anything. If a man said something 
to me, white or colored, I didn't answer him. He 
wouldn't say anytiiing more." 

Mrs. Walker recalls that black people went down- 
town to all the big theatres and to community theatres 
as well — the Puritan, the Eagle and others — for a dime, 
a quarter, or thirty-five cents, "no children or babies 
allowed." 

She also remembers tiie Pioneer C'lub, "an alter- 



30 




Musician, from the Herbert Collins Collection 

hours place where people went to let their hair down 
after seeing the colored shows that played here. The 
white folks used to go there, too." 



Mrs. Walker went to see Josephine Baker, Ethel 
Waters, Cab Calloway and Duke Ellington. She also 
enjoyed parades and going to Revere Beach. A favorite 
pastime was attending chocolate afternoons, when peo- 
ple served chocolate rather then tea. 

"Years ago people used to serve chocolate and 
chocolate sets were a beautiful piece of chinaware. The 
cups were usually a little taller than a teacup. All I 
ever saw were beautiful, beautiful. 

"Today everything is cocktails. I'm not against 
people drinking if they want to and know how to drink. 
In season, with reason, that's what I say." 

Mrs. Walker led a sedate social life, but young peo- 
ple of her day had their moments. 

"The most we used to do was go to a show. Once in 
a while, I went to a dance. When I got old enough to 
go out, some of the girls from Cambridge, Everett and 
Boston went to one another's houses and played rec- 
ords. 

"Oh, we carried on terrible though! When my 
cousin from the Navy came home, we put some grape 
juice and oranges and lemons in mother's thick white 
crockware pitchers. He added some moonshine and, 
oh, we carried on ! When I got older, sometimes I made 
wine." 

People ha\e always cautioned her about walking 
too fast, Mrs. Walker says: 

"One day, a man named Mr. Washington called to 
me, 'Nellie, Nellie, you walk so fast you won't get a 
husband !' People still get after me about walking fast." 

Irene O'B.anvon Robinson, aged sixty-nine, 
lived in a different atmosphere than Mrs. Walker. Mrs. 
Robinson grew up in Cambridge. Her father taught 
music in his homes in Cambridge and Boston to stu- 
dents from both cities. In addition, he was an actor 
who worked with Ralf Coleman's Boston Players. He 
also sang with the Columbia Glee Club. Mrs. Robin- 
son grew up in the cultural tradition. She tells of her 
parents' cultural and civic interests: 

"My father and mother were both members of the 

31 



Professional group from the Herbert Collins Collection 



Thursday Evening Club before they were married. It 
was a social club that met in homes. Members had a 
common interest in culture, in art or the art forms, mu- 
sic, drama. In this club, my mother and father came in 
contact with many people who became famous." 

Mrs. Robinson recalls that she met the famed black 
tenor, Roland Hayes, and his wife at Filene's Basement 



"more than anywhere else." Her parents sang in The 
Messiah when Marian Anderson came to Boston. She 
remembers meeting top black physicians, including 
several who played tennis, which she calls "a game 
played by the noble gentry." 

Moving to Boston from Cambridge in 1927 was 
good, says Mrs. Robinson. She liked the "clean and 



32 



well kept" apartment on Humboldt Street and the 
shopping area near Dudley Station. 

"At that time," she says, "Blair's was really a beau- 
tiful market. Everyone went to Dudley Station to shop 
at Blair's and Timothy Smith's department store. Tim- 
othy Smith's employed a black elevator operator. The 
Ferdinand Furniture Store was one of the best in town. 
It still is, but there isn't the demand for their type of 
merchandise anymore because so many people who 
could have paid for it have moved away. Dudley Sta- 
tion was an ideal shopping center." 

\Irs. Rol:iinson liked the neighljorhood stores, too 
— a supermarket, a bakery and the Townsend drug- 
store. 

"One of the employees at the drugstore," she says, 
"was a boy named Malcolm Little who grew up to be 
Malcolm X. We all knew him as a l)ad little boy who 
ran like the dickens when he was in trouble. Later, he 
became quite a celebrated person."' 

She talks about her sister's coming out party: 

"My mothei" wanted me to have a debut. She be- 
lieved firmly that we shouldn't go out until we were 
sixteen years old. Then she would present us, and we 
could go. Mrs. Robinson did not have a coming out 
party because a Harvard student. Bill Knox, called on 
her before she was sixteen and invited her to attend his 
graduation and all the festivities. 

"My mother said I couldn't go because I wasn't 
sixteen. Her ne.xt-door neighbor said, 'O'Banyon, you 
don't have any sense. You know a black girl doesn't 
get the chance to go to Harvard and do those things. 
You'd better let that girl go.' So I did. I went. And 
that was my going out." 

Of her Harvard spree, Mrs. Robinson says: 

"It wasn't very e.xciting. It was traditional. It was 
in the Yard. Black people were kind of lost." 

Her sister's party, held in the family house on May- 
fair Street in Boston, was much more exciting. 

"It must have been 1929. We had a large living 
room with a very beautiiul chandelier. One of her ush- 




joe \clsu>i, French teacher and historian, c. nj20 

ers was BoIj Wea\ er, the first black memljcr ol a Presi- 
dent's cabinet ( Robert Cl. Weaver, Secretary ol Hous- 
ing and Urban Development under President Lyndon 
B. Johnson). Another was Bill Hastie (United States 
Judge W'illiam Hastie, the first black governor of the 
\'irgin Islands 1. We had a wondeiful time. She had a 
party of about twelve — tvs elve girls and the ushers. A 



33 



coming out party was fun if it was done right. But 
when a family took it too seriously, well ! We did it 
properly because my mother said we should do it prop- 
erly, but we had a ball doing it. That was the differ- 
ence." 

While she went to college, Mrs. Robinson also en- 
joyed fraternity formals, basketball games, social af- 
fairs and parties. She worked during summer vaca- 
tions. 

"My first job was running an elevator," she says. 
"I was only 15, but I was tall. I took instruction from 
the mother of a friend. When I went for my license, 
they never questioned me." 

During the Depression, Mrs. Robinson worked for 
the WPA to help her mother whose health was broken. 
She sang with the WPA Chorus under the direction of 
Warner Lawson, who later became dean of Howard 
University Music School. When she finished school, 
Mrs. Robinson worked for the city v\ elfare department 
until she had the first of her five daughters. "That was 
in 1945 and I haven't worked since." 

Mrs. Robinson says the best jobs for l)lack men 
were at the United States Post Office or with the rail- 
roads. Black lawyers, dentists and other professionals 
worked in the post office because they could not de- 
pend on their practice to earn a living. 

"'The post office was really the haven," she says. 
"They had the best trained workers, not only in Bos- 
ton, but everywhere. Men could go to work and stay 
clean. If they had to take janitors' jobs, they had to get 
dirty. A lot of the men felt they had worked too hard 
and spent too much money getting through college to 
have to go out and get dirty."' 

Today Mrs. Rf)binson is working to revive the Meet 
the Artist Sunday alternoon musical programs at St. 
Mark's Church. 

WiLHEi.MiNA Crosso.x grew up in a world of 
white people, athletics, education and civic, but non- 
political, activities. She took an interest in sports be- 
cause of her brothers. 



"My oldest brother was i)orn too early. He was one 
ol'the best footljall and baseball players. He was a four- 
letter man who ran track and played basketball. My 
brother was offlsred jobs at different times il he would 
be anything but a Negro." 

Another brother excelled in football, and a third 
brother, Jasper Tasker, ran track. "I ran and played 
basketball," recalls Miss Crosson, aged seventy-six. 

They all went to schools with whites and had white 
teachers. Miss C-rosson's only black teacher was a sub- 
stitute. Nevertheless, she became an educator. She 
worked for 25 years in the South End and then at 
Palmer Memorial Institute in Sedalia, North Carolina, 
a black private school, where she achieved national 
note. She returned to Boston and her beloved South 
End after retirement. 

"I was one of the first teachers \\ ho studied remedi- 
al reading. I was sent to different schools in Boston to 
speak to teachers and to teach remedial reading. Then 
I worked at one of the first remedial centers in Boston. 
I saw that we had to prevent children from failing. It 
was not enough to try to remedy poor reading; it was 
better to prevent poor reading." 

Miss Clrosson left Boston in 1948 to become Presi- 
dent of Palmer Memorial Institute, succeeding Dr. 
Charlotte Haw kins Brown, one of the nation's top edu- 
cators. 

Cultuic was Miss Crosson's great interest and, 
through cultural and ci\ ic activities, she helped young 
people. The Artisto Club was one enterprise. "Our 
first members were teachers in different towns and suc- 
cessful professional women. There were colored teach- 
ers in Haverhill, Lowell and Worcester at that time 
and we all formed the .\rtisto Club. The cIuIj isn't do- 
ing today what we started it to do." 

She believes education slif)uld l)e cultin'al. 

"At Palmer, I stressed languages, for example. I re- 
memlier Roijert S. Abbott (founder and editor of the 
Chicago Defender, a daily newspaper) telling us that Ne- 



34 




Marie Baldwin, first president of 

the League of Women for Community Service 



groes liad better learn sonietliing more tlian English. 
At Palmer, ue offered Latin, Spanish and French." 

Carter G. Woodson spoke at 558 Massachusetts 
Avenue, home of the League of Women for C'ommun- 
ity Service. "This was a cultural center," Miss Crosson 
says. "It was a very lovely place; it made us feel that 
we had something because it was a beautiful house. I 
joined 558 because of Xegi-o history." 



Literarv meetings were also held at 464 Massachu- 
setts A\ enue. home of the Women s Service Club. Dur- 
ing \\orld War IL young women formed a knitting 
club and also entertained soldiers there. Churches 
were black people s great social centers. Miss Crosson 
says: 

"We had May festivals; we had picnics; we rode 
trains to various parks. Children Ijecame aware ol 
their qualities as people through church." 

Genev.\ Ste\v.a.rt, aged ninety-five, is the 
daughter of a janitor. As a young woman, her first job 
was washing dishes. She later worked as a stitcher. \ et 
she and her sisters were culture-conscious. 

"I recited and took elocution lessons; my younger 
sister was a singer and my older sister was a pianist. 
"7 here was music on my mother's side — she was al- 
ways in the audience when we took part in a concert. 
I was the odd one; I didn't sing." 

The three sisters had to get permission to go to con- 
certs on the Common on Sunday afternoons. 

"It wasn't what you would call religious music, " 
Miss Stewart notes. "They played marches and 
waltzes, something that would interest the people 
gathered there." 

"We just broke up the Etude Club at St. Mark's 
Church last year. " she says. "We were over 70 years 
old. We had singers, violinists, everything in music. We 
went to the Old Ladies Home every second Simday to 
give a concert. 

"They wore black dresses and big white aprons. 
They faithfully came dow n and sat in the parlor. We 
served them candies and fruit. We reported at two 
o'clock, rain or shine, snow or sleet. " 

Asked whether these were black women. Miss 
Stewart responds: 

"Yes — I don't like that word — they were all col- 
ored." 

"Colored people had better relations with white 
people then than they do now," says Miss Stewart. "I 
think it's terrible the way they go on nowada\-s. We all 



35 




went to schf)()l together and \\c never had any trouljle. 
There v\eren"t as many ol us and they weren't so belUg- 
crcnt as they are no\s-. We visited one another. We nev- 
er seemed to have any troulile." 
Of" today. Miss Stewart says: 

'■'J here s no peace, no peace at all. We could stay 
out until midnight, go home and feel safe. Now it's not 
sale to go out. Of course, we had eruptions at times, 
but we got along." 

During her lifetime, Miss Stewart has met, l)ut re- 
calls only \aguely, such people as Harriet Tubman, 
I'lederick Dougla.ss, and Roland Hayes. 

Miss Stewart always attended church. 

■'We were brought up in a white church because 
we lived in a white neigiiborhood. We didn't know any 
other church. My sister was married from there. When 
they had afl'aiis, we were always in llicni. I'lic only 



time we saw coloreds was when we went to school. 
That's how' we got acquainted.'' 

Miss Stewart's family life was happy. "We had a 
lovely family relationship. We would cjuarrcl, Init it 
ne\er separated us. It was love. We got it from our par- 
ents. Xow I'm the only one left. My younger sister and 
I ne\er married. We were dyed-in-the-wool old 
maids." 

Miss Stewart li\es with lier oldest sister's daughter 
and enjoys two activities — voting and going to chin ch. 
.She taught .Sunday school until she was 93, but now 
she only goes to church services. 

"I'm proud of voting. My niece takes me every vot- 
ing day; I don't miss a day in primaries or regular elec- 
tions." 

Atiother ninety-year-old is Ev.a. Fisher, whom 
people remember as a glamorous "hostess with the 
mostest" because she opened her attractive home on 
223 West Springfield Street to black entertainers who 
had no other place to stay in Boston. Friends of Mrs. 
Fisher recall that her home was a home away I'rom 
home for such stars as Bill "Bojangles" Robinson, Eth- 
el Waters, Eubie Blake, Noble Sissle and so many oth- 
ers. 

Her garden was her holjby. She was an excellent 
cook. She ga\e garden parties. 

"Eva was such a lovely hostess; people took to her 
so well," says one who remembers her. 

J.AMES Henderson recalls all the fun and ex- 
citement of the life he has lived as an entertainer, as a 
poet, as a father, as an adventurer. 

Mr. Henderson came to the city in 191 7 as an actor 
who thought ol' becoming a student. He explains his 
arrival: 

"I came fiom \ irgijiia and brought some students 
to work on tobacco fields near Hartlbrd. After spend- 
ing the year there, I joined a theatrical company and 
we toured New England. My purp(;se was to come 
l)ack, settle in Boston, study for a year, then go back 
SolUil." 



36 




Housing in the South End, c. 1880 



He never returned to live in the South. Mr. Hen- 
derson was twenty-three years old when he came to 
Boston to study at Harvard or at Brown on a "small 
scholarship. And then I found work, took other studies 
here in Boston and became part of" the citizenry. Final- 
ly, I married and here I am."" 

7"he Hub has a special fascination lor Mr. Hender- 
son. 

"Boston in 191 7 was not a great deal difTerent from 
Boston in 1975. There was a consciousness about Bos- 
ton, among the colored as well as the white. Let's as- 
sume that the world is your hand. All the inside of the 
hand was Boston and the few fingers were the rest of 



the world. Boston, to some extent, still ha-s that atti- 
tude."" 

Mr. Henderson stayed in Boston because he had 
nerve — some people might call it gall. One example of 
his nerve is his experience in finding a residence. On 
arriving in Boston for the theatrical tour, Mr. Hender- 
son reported to the Tubman House for an overnight 
stay, but it was for women only. 

"I was recommended to a \'irginia family living at 
75 Windsor Street. I spent the night there and left to 
go on tour. At the end of the tour, they were the only 
people I knew in Boston, so I came back, set my suit- 
case down in the middle of their living room and said, 
'Here I am — back home." My landlady asked, 'Back 
home?" I said, "You're the only people I know and the 
only way you'll get me out of here is to throw me out. 
I like it here. You're my type of people.'" 

Another instance of Mr. Henderson's boldness oc- 
curred at a "do-gooder's" home during a meeting of a 
committee that helped ijlack people coming to the city. 
Mr. Henderson was called upon to talk after he had 
heard a participant advise one young newcomer, "I 
would have to know more about your antecedents be- 
fore I can recommend that we sponsor you." 

"I was very bullheaded at that time," says Mr. 
Henderson. "I really spoke my mind. I told them, 
among other things, that in \'irginia, when we came to 
manhood, our daddies turned us loose as men. In Bos- 
ton, I wanted to be absorbed to a certain extent by the 
better elements of population, but I would not beg for 
anything. 

"I told them to get out of my way because if they 
didn"t, they were liable to be trampled. I have \ery 
big feet."' 

At that meeting, he met a leader of the Knights of 
Pythias who told him, "Young man, you are going 
right up my alley. Between the two of us we are going 
to give these Bostonians hell. This gentleman and my- 
self spoke our piece and I think w e opened the eyes of a 
great many Bostonians."' 



37 




James Henderson s theatre group at the Harriet Tubman House, ig^i 



Mr. Henderson worked with William Monroe 
Trotter. He explains the diflerence between Trotter 
and hinisell": 

"William Monroe Trotter and I often disagreed be- 
cause he was an idealist and, even in my young days, I 
was a pragmatic idealist. As a poor author and actor, I 
dwelled among the stars, l)ut I never forgot that I took 
my meals on earth and that the long green came in 
mighty handy at chow time. 



"I worked and lielped him in every way I could. 
We had a mutual respect lor each other." 

He recalls when black was not beautiful. 

■"It was a long, long lime before black loecame 
beautiful. There was plenty of color prejudice, particu- 
larly for women. For example, there were some clubs 
any male who was a scholar or student could join, no 
matter w hat his complexion was. But if he was dark 
and he had a dark sister, he was very loathe to take her 



38 



to social functions because she wouldn't be welcome." 

Mr. Henderson perlbrmed with or knew most top 
black stage performers. He recalls the youthful days of 
iamed tenor Roland Hayes: 

"When Roland lived with his mother, they had one 
bed in the apartment. His mother slept in it. Roland 
had some boxes with a mattress. That's where he slept. 

"When he was ready to give his first recital at Sym- 
phony Hall, a prominent New England lady who had 
been his sponsor decided it was too ambitious an im- 
dertaking. She withdrew her sponsorship. He decided 
to go ahead just the same. He filled the auditorium and 
five hundred extra seats on the stage. In spite of his 
great triumph, Americans didn't recognize his full po- 
tential until he had succeeded in Europe." 

The singer's mother fascinated Mr. Henderson. 

"Mrs. Hayes used to ask me to read one of my 
poems, especially the dialect. Then she'd tell me just 
what was wrong with it. Roland practically wor- 
shipped her. He realized that she was his real inspira- 
tion." 

The Depression was the salvation of black artists, 
says Mr. Henderson, "because for the first time most of 
us had an opportunity to do the things we wanted to do 
and get paid for them." Boston operated an adult rec- 
reation program with a $6,000,000 budget. Mr. Hen- 
derson describes his first play: 

"At that time my second wife persuaded me to put 
on one of my plays. I had no money. With fifteen dol- 
lars a week I supported three children." 

After this play. The Invi.sihle Empire, Mr. Henderson 
wrote a pageant on the contributions of black authors 
to world literature. 

Henderson is also aware of racial discrimination. 

"What's happening in Boston now was latent all 
along. I remember when I was working in an ofilce 
next door to a restaurant where they tried to discrim- 
inate. So I went in there and raised holy hell. A lot of 
hotels did not want us. Some restaurants didn't say no, 
but they would rather not have us." 




The renowned tenor, Roland Hayes 



In concluding his poem that introduces this his- 
tory, Henderson wrote: 

I saw Jesus down in Dixie 
Live a new Gethsernane. 

Then I heard that awful warning given to humanity, 
^Inasmuch as ye have done it' 
Heard it boom on every breeze, 

'Inasmuch as ye have done it to the very least oj these. 



39 



BOSTON PUBLIC LIBRARY 




3 9999 04673 063 4 

Project Staff 

Luix OvERBEA, writer 
K AT IE Kenneally, project coordinator, editor-in-chief 
Lavert Stuart, interviewer, assistant project coordinator 
Joan Fitzgerald, copy editor 
Jan Coras h, photographic editor 
Mary Yeaton, black programs coordinator 
Harron Ellenson, director Boston 200 
Michaeland Winifred Bixler, typography 



ACKNOWLEDGMENTS: This project is the result of the experience and insight of many Boston- 
ians. Luix Overbea, writer, is a staff reporter for the Christian Science Monitor. We would like 
to thank especially Robert Hayden of the Education Development Center for his extensive re- 
search and the following participants: Lucille Allen, Rosa Bias, Melnea Cass, Dorothy Clark, 
Astelle Crosby, Wilhelmina Crosson, Eva Fisher, the late Dr. J. Gideon Garnett, Roland Hayes, 
James Henderson, Helen Holiday, the late Ben Jones, Bishop St. Clair Kirton, J. Marcus 
Mitchell, Florence Moore, Joe Nelson, Rev. Richard Owens, Irene O'Banyon Robinson, Julia 
Noble Smith, Geneva Stewart, Beatrice Todd, Helen Walker, Myrtle Worthy, and William 
Worthy. We also thank those who excuse omissions — all unintentional — of key people and 
events of Boston's Black History. 

PHOTO CREDITS: The Museum of Afro- American History, the Print Department of the Boston 
Public Library, Ed King and Gallery 560, James Henderson, Joseph Kolk, Joe Nelson, and 
Vernon Patterson. 

SPONSORS: The Black Neighborhood History Project was funded by the Massachusetts Bicen- 
tennial Commission. The Neighborhood History Series was made possible through the support 
of: The Blanchard Foundation, the Godfrey M. Hyams Trust, the Massachusetts Bicentennial 
Commission, Workingmens Co-operative Bank, and the people of the City of Boston. 



Boston enjoys an international reputation as the birthplace of our American 
Revolution. Today, as the nation celebrates its 200th anniversary, that struggle 
for freedom again draws attention to Boston. The heritage of Paul Revere, Sam 
Adams, Faneuil Hall and Bunker Hill still fire our romantic imaginations. 

But a heritage is more than a few great names or places — it is a culture, 
social history and, above all, it is people. Here in Boston, one of our most cher- 
ished traditions is a rich and varied neighborhood life. The history of our neigh- 
borhood communities is a fascinating and genuinely American story — a story 
of proud and ancient peoples and customs, preserved and at the same time 
transformed by the American urban experience. 

So to celebrate our nation's birthday we have undertaken to chronicle 
Boston's neighborhood histories. Compiled largely from the oral accounts of 
living Bostonians, these histories capture in vivid detail the breadth and depth 
of our city's complex past. They remind us of the most important component 
of Boston's heritage — people,which is, after all,what the Bicentennial is all about. 



Kevin H. White, Mayor 




Boston 200